These statements – and many others like them, some examples of which are discussed below – have all been made by Surrealists during the last couple of decades or so. While most anthropologists, NGOs and indigenous rights’ activists nowadays regard the term ‘primitive’ is as outdated at best, we Surrealists have continued to use it, often appealing to ‘primitive culture’ as a touchstone in our development of poetic thought and practices. As recently as winter 2011, a film review in the Surrealist journal Phosphor referred to ‘primitive “contact” magic’, a concept first proposed by the now entirely discredited Victorian anthropologist JG Frazer. It seems that Surrealists have been rummaging in anthropology’s dustbins, and have pulled out some rubbish that can be transformed into treasure. The purpose of this short essay is to help clean off some of the mud to reveal the gold beneath.
Primitive social organisation, before the advent of religion, private property or the state, was a form of communism in which humans lived in harmony with the Earth and regarded animals as siblings.
The earliest human societies thought analogically.
The thought of primitive peoples is non-directed and connected to the pleasure principle.
Primitive peoples have magic instead of science, and myth instead of history.